If you’re looking to launch a new eCommerce business, or considering switching your existing solution, you’ll soon discover there are a plethora of options to choose from. Magento and Shopify are two of the most popular platforms, each with a number of impressive features, but it’s essential to consider their differences and suitability for your business before making any decisions.
Choosing the right platform is one of the most important steps in launching an online business. It provides the framework that sits at the centre of your store and can play a huge part in the future scalability of your business. In this article, we look at the features, benefits and limitations of both Magento and Shopify to help you determine which platform is most likely to best facilitate the launch and growth of your eCommerce business.
When it comes to launching a new website, one of your first considerations is likely to be the cost of the project.
Shopify is a SAAS platform (software-as-a-service) and has three subscription-based plans (pricing may have changed since the date of this article):
- Basic $29 per month. Shopify identifies this plan as “Best for new eCommerce businesses with occasional in-person sales”.
- Shopify $79 per month which they highlight as “Best for growing businesses selling online or in-store”
- Advanced $299 per month which is “Best for scaling businesses that require advanced reporting”
You can try all of Shopify’s plans for free with a 14-day trial.
Magento is an open-source platform and the Community Edition is free to set up. Magento Enterprise Edition with its powerful additional features aimed at large corporations starts at around $22,000 and total set-up fees will depend on the needs of your business.
Getting Set Up
A Shopify site is fully hosted with no additional hosting costs on top of the monthly subscription. Those who opt for Magento will need to organise their own hosting. Although this will bear an additional cost, it does mean businesses have the flexibility of being able to choose a hosting solution that suits their needs; a secure, robust hosting is essential for running a successful online store
The look and feel of your website plays a pivotal role in establishing your brand. With both platforms, one of the first steps in implementing your website’s design is choosing a base theme. Both Shopify and Magento have plenty of options, however, Magento has more of an extensive library with thousands to choose from, while Shopify has 3rd Party Extensions available and 100s of templates from the likes of Envato.
Both offer paid ‘premium’ themes with pricing starting at $80 for Shopify and $1 for Magento. There are only a handful of free Shopify themes but these do tend to be more modern and contemporary in comparison with Magento themes.
Shopify themes don’t allow for much customisation, due to the way they are coded. Brands are able to change the basics including font, colour and imagery which may be suitable for most new and small businesses. However, this would be limiting for larger brands that require more adaptability from their chosen platform.
In comparison, Magento is open source which means if you have development knowledge or access to a development agency, then the potential for customisation is huge. Alternatively, since the launch of Magento 2, there is now the addition of a drag-and-drop visual editor which allows non-coders to build and customise their site with ease.
Shopify’s main draw is its ease of use, it’s beginner-friendly and easy to get set up quickly. Certain custom settings may require more technical knowledge but overall, the platform is intuitive and centralises everything including marketing, and inventory management into the dashboard.
There’s a steep learning curve when it comes to Magento due to being so feature-rich and heavily customisable. Managing inventory, orders and content is relatively straightforward via the admin panel, however, if you want to make visual, structural changes or add new features to your site you will need specialist Magento Development expertise, or enlist the help of a Magento Specialist Agency (the most common solution).
Both Magento and Shopify make it easy to integrate a wide range of payment gateways into your checkout. Shopify has its own gateway ‘Shopify Payments’ and also supports over 100 other processors, however, it’s important to note that Shopify imposes additional transaction fees if you want to use any other gateway that isn't their own.
Magento supports over 150 integrations, many of which are suitable for large businesses such as Worldpay. Other common gateways including Stripe, or Square can be installed via the Marketplace.
There is no winner when it comes to Shopify and Magento as they’re both powerful eCommerce platforms suited to different types of business. Below we’ve summarised the pros and cons of each.
Ideal for small to mid-sized businesses with a simple business model, who are looking to get set up as quickly as possible.
- Quick and easy to get set up
- No coding knowledge required
- 24/7 support available from Shopify
- Sleek, modern themes
- Multiple payment gateways supported
- Hosting costs included
- One-size-fits-all approach means customisation is limited
- Limited theme options
- Premium themes are expensive
- Transaction fees apply to any gateway other than Shopify’s own
- Limited to using Shopify’s hosting provider, potentially not as powerful or secure as other options
- Product attributes are limited to 3
Ideal for mid to enterprise-level businesses looking for a feature-rich eCommerce platform. Suited to those who want flexibility and the ability to scale alongside their evolving business.
- Fully customisable
- Flexibility to choose own hosting provider
- Free to set up
- Thousands of themes to choose from
- Multiple payment gateways supported
- A large Magento community means continuous improvement and bug-fixes
- Unlimited product attributes
- A steep learning curve means you’ll likely need a developer or development agency
- Hosting needs to be organised separately meaning an additional cost
- Themes aren’t as contemporary as Shopify’s so may need heavy customisation
- 24/7 support is not included in the Community Edition